Do your kids know what to do when the smoke detector sounds?

Providence Health Team

Summer. It was glorious, wasn’t it? But, now that fall has arrived, the temperatures are dropping, we’re firing up our furnaces and woodstoves and the risk of house fires is rising. Sure, you have smoke detectors throughout your home. But, do your kids know how to react if they hear them go off in the middle of the night? Are you sure it would even wake them?

Children younger than age 7 are less likely than their parents or older siblings to wake up if a smoke alarm sounds while they’re sleeping. Plus, their small bodies are more vulnerable to smoke and flames and it’s more difficult for them to escape a burning home by themselves.

But, children as young as 3 can follow an escape plan if they’ve practiced it often.

House fire facts

  • Working smoke alarms cut the chance a house fire will cause death by 50%
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires and fire injuries
  • It only takes two minutes for a fire to fill a home with black smoke or engulf it in flames
  • Most fatal fires occur at night


Tips to help keep your family safe

  • Check your smoke alarms. Smoke alarms are a critical first step for staying safe. But, to be effective, they have to be working properly. For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every sleeping area. Change the batteries every year – make it part of your “fall back” routine when daylight saving time ends.
  • Teach kids never to play with matches and lighters. Make a habit of placing these items up and away from young children.
  • Consider what a child could be thinking in an emergency. Think your kids will run or call out to you during a fire? Would they know to escape from a burning building? Don’t be so sure. Children often hide under beds or in closets, thinking they’re safe. If a child accidentally started the fire, they often fear blame and punishment and don’t alert an adult. They might even be scared or intimidated by the firefighters.
  • Create and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room in your house. Get a stopwatch and time how fast your family can escape. Designate a spot – outside, away from the house – where everyone meets in case of a fire. Use this handy escape plan worksheet and grid for a visual record.
  • Teach children to get low and go. Make sure your kids know how to respond to the sound of a smoke alarm. Teach them to get low and get out when they hear it. If you and your kids have practiced ahead of time, you all have a better chance of escaping safely.
  • Create a safety zone in the kitchen. Limit distractions when cooking and don’t leave a hot oven or stovetop unattended.
  • Space heaters should be at least three feet away from anything that can burn. And, always closely supervise children and pets when a heater is turned on. Be sure to turn your heater off when you leave the room.


For more information

For more fire safety tips, visit Safe Kids Worldwide or watch their home fire drill video.

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